NEW YORK — U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm was expected to plead guilty to a federal tax evasion charge Tuesday, people familiar with the plea negotiations said, but it was unclear what would become of his congressional career.
Grimm was due in a Brooklyn federal court Tuesday on the tax fraud case, which concerns his investment in a health-food eatery.
The two people familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Monday that Grimm planned to plead guilty to a single count of aiding in the filing of a false tax return, with hopes of avoiding prison time. The Staten Island Republican's trial was due to start in February.
Lawyers for Grimm and federal prosecutors declined to comment on a pending plea deal. There was no immediate response to a phone message left at Grimm's office.
News of the planned plea quickly brought pressure from Democrats for Grimm to resign his seat.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement Tuesday it was "past time for Michael Grimm to go," calling his continued presence in Congress "a disservice to the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn and a stain on the institution." The DCCC and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to ensure Grimm's departure.
Boehner has forced other lawmakers to resign for lesser offenses. Boehner, for instance, quickly orchestrated the 2011 resignation of Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., a married lawmaker who responded to a personal ad by emailing a shirtless photograph of himself to another woman.
Boehner doesn't plan to comment on Grimm's situation until the two discuss it, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Asked during an October whether he would resign if found guilty, Grimm responded, "Certainly, if I was not able to serve, then of course I would step aside."
But if he refuses to resign, it would take a rare vote by his fellow lawmakers to expel him from the House. The last member to be expelled was James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was kicked out of Congress in 2002.
Grimm, who's free on $400,000 bond, won re-election in November while fighting the charges.
According to an indictment, the tax fraud began in 2007 after Grimm retired from the FBI and began investing in a small Manhattan restaurant called Healthalicious. The indictment accused him of underreporting more than $1 million in wages and receipts to evade payroll, income and sales taxes, partly by paying immigrant workers, some of them in the country illegally, in cash.
The case stemmed from an investigation of Grimm's campaign financing. He was never charged with any offense related to his campaign, but a woman romantically linked to him pleaded guilty in September to lining up straw donors for his 2010 run.
Grimm, 44, made headlines in January after telling a local cable TV news station reporter he wanted to throw the journalist off a balcony in the Capitol for asking about the campaign finance inquiry.
An independent advisory office recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate the balcony incident. The ethics panel deferred its investigation into Grimm while the Justice Department case was ongoing.
If Grimm doesn't resign, the panel is sure to address the case next year.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor in Washington and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.